Please Please Me

Please Please Me single - United KingdomWritten by: Lennon-McCartney
Recorded: 11 September, 26 November 1962
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Norman Smith

Released: 11 January 1963 (UK), 25 February 1963 (US)

John Lennon: lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
George Harrison: harmony vocals, lead guitar
Ringo Starr: drums

Available on:
Please Please Me
Anthology 1
On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2

The follow-up to The Beatles' début single Love Me Do, Please Please Me was originally written as a slow, bluesy song in the style of Roy Orbison. Producer George Martin persuaded The Beatles to rearrange the song, which duly became their first number one single.

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We'd had a top 30 entry with Love Me Do and we really thought we were on top of the world. Then came Please Please Me - and wham! We tried to make it as simple as possible. Some of the stuff we've written in the past has been a bit way-out, but we aimed this one straight at the hit parade.
John Lennon, 1963

The song was written by John Lennon at his Aunt Mimi's house in Menlove Avenue, Liverpool.

Please Please Me is my song completely. It was my attempt at writing a Roy Orbison song, would you believe it? I wrote it in the bedroom in my house at Menlove Avenue, which was my auntie's place... I remember the day and the pink coverlet on the bed and I heard Roy Orbison doing Only The Lonely or something. That's where that came from. And also I was always intrigued by the words of 'Please, lend me your little ears to my pleas' - a Bing Crosby song. I was always intrigued by the double use of the word 'please'. So it was a combination of Bing Crosby and Roy Orbison.
John Lennon, 1980
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon was also influenced by Bing Crosby's 1930s song Please, which opens with the line: " Oh, please, lend your little ear to my pleas". The Beatles' song, however, was much less innocent, containing what has been generally interpreted as a request for fellatio.

Please Please Me was the only song performed by The Beatles during their first national TV appearance, for the ITV show Thank Your Lucky Stars. It was recorded at the Alpha Television Studios in Birmingham on 13 January 1963, and was broadcast six days later.

The single, backed by Ask Me Why, caused many to take notice of The Beatles, and particularly Lennon-McCartney's songwriting talent; it led to Dick James approaching them to found Northern Songs, their publishing company.

Please Please Me was excitedly received by reviewers, radio and the public. By its third week on sale George Martin told Brian Epstein to bring the band in from their tour with Helen Shapiro to record the Please Please Me album, which they did on 11 February 1963.

In the studio

We almost abandoned it as the b-side of Love Me Do. We changed our minds only because we were so tired the night we did Love Me Do. We'd been going over it a few times and when we came to the question of the flipside, we intended using Please Please Me. Our recording manager, George Martin, thought our arrangement was fussy, so we tried to make it simpler. We were getting very tired, though, and we just couldn't seem to get it right. We are conscientious about our work and we don't like to rush things.
John Lennon, 1963

Please Please Me was first brought to The Beatles' 4 September 1962 session, in which they worked on Love Me Do. They played Please Please Me during a studio rehearsal overseen by EMI's Ron Richards, but didn't formally record it.

On my first visit in September we just ran through some tracks for George Martin. We even did Please Please Me. I remember that, because while we were recording it I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other.
Ringo Starr

George Martin disliked the slow tempo and Roy Orbison-style arrangement, so The Beatles worked up a faster version for their next session.

At that stage Please Please Me was a very dreary song. It was like a Roy Orbison number, very slow, bluesy vocals. It was obvious to me that it badly needed pepping up. I told them to bring it in next time and we'd have another go at it.
George Martin
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

Although The Beatles attempted to record Please Please Me on 11 September, with Andy White on drums, George Martin saw room for improvement and opted not to release it on The Beatles' debut single. He preferred Mitch Murray's How Do You Do It, which the group had dutifully yet reluctantly recorded in a previous session.

For many years it was believed that EMI had destroyed the 11 September recordings. However, one take from the session was discovered in 1994, and was released on the Anthology 1 collection. Although not the slower Orbison-like arrangement, there are a number of differences from the final version, notably the lack of harmonica.

On 26 November The Beatles recorded a remake of Please Please Me. It was complete in 18 takes, which included Lennon's overdubbed harmonica.

We sang it and George Martin said, 'Can we change the tempo?' We said, 'What's that?' He said, 'Make it a bit faster. Let me try it.' And he did. We thought, 'Oh, that's all right, yes.' Actually, we were a bit embarrassed that he had found a better tempo than we had.
Paul McCartney

Three mixes were made of the song, two in mono and another in stereo. The mono mixes were different on the single and album releases, with extra echo audible on the album.

The stereo mix was an edit of takes 16, 17 and 18, and contains a vocal error in the final verse, causing Lennon to sing "come on" with a slight laugh. The mix also has a slightly different guitar line by Harrison prior to the final verse.

As with other songs on the Please Please Me album, the song was credited to McCartney-Lennon. The names were switched to the more familiar Lennon-McCartney on subsequent releases.

Chart success

At the end of the session George Martin addressed the group over the studio' talkback system. "Congratulations, gentlemen," he told them, "You've just made your first number one."

He was correct, to a degree. At the time of the single's release, 11 January 1963, there was no standard singles chart. In some - Melody Maker, New Musical Express and Disc - Please Please Me did indeed reach number one, after six weeks on sale.

In the Record Retailer chart, also used by New Record Mirror, it only reached number two. The Beatles had to wait until From Me To You to score their first bona fide chart topper.

Please Please Me, again with Ask Me Why on the b-side, was The Beatles' debut single in the US. It was released on 25 February 1963 by the small Vee-Jay label. The first pressing of the single, corrected on subsequent copies, was credited to "The Beattles". Regardless, the single failed to make much impression, selling little over 7,000 copies.

The song was re-released by Vee-Jay on 30 January 1964, in the wake of the success of I Want To Hold Your Hand. From Me To You was on the flipside of the single, which reached number three in the Billboard Hot 100.

27 responses on “Please Please Me

  1. Rob

    i just realized that this song is about masterbation…. totally changed the way i think of this song!!! lol still love it, ill just laugh every time i hear it now! lol

  2. McLerristarr

    According to Ringo’s quote, Ringo’s first session was the Andy White session. Perhaps it’s just a memory slip but George Martin seemed to say the same on Anthology. Since the documentation for the 4 September session was destroyed, maybe it wasn’t the 4th, it was after the 11th, or maybe the 4th and 11th should be the other way around.

    1. Joe Post author

      That’s an interesting point. Perhaps they did a run-through at the 4 September session, then recorded the song on the 11th. That would explain why the Anthology (11 September) version isn’t the slow Roy Orbison arrangement.

    1. Joe Post author

      Because they used different sources – radio play, numbers ordered, actual sales, even sheet music. The earliest UK charts involved a pool of around 20 record shops, although this increased quickly. The BBC initially created an average chart based on all the others, which meant it was prone to having tied positions.

      There wasn’t a standardised chart until February 1969, when the BBC and Record Retailer commissioned a professional polling company to carry out a proper weekly audit from a pool of 500 shops (twice the previous sample).

  3. M. Whitener

    In Geoff Emerick’s book he said he worked both sessions & that they hammered it out after “Love Me Do” & that Ringo went down after they finished the single edition of “Love Me Do” & Andy White left. That’s when the weird usage of Ringo on the bass drum happened. Then they came back with the final edition the next time.

    At any rate, it was the first song with the great, fast paced Lennon/McCartney dual voice & the Lennon call, McCartney/Harrison response is amazing. For as good of a vocal track as it is, McCartney is the star of this track for me, as he really gives a great, fast paced bass sound that drives this track.

    1. ted

      The Single & Album versions (Stereo and mono) have the same Exact drum lines as the ones that Ringo does live. Confirm via any video on youtube. Secondly, the drum line from the anthology is different than the final drum part that Ringo ended up going with – the song was still being worked on at the time. The one from 1/11 is Ringo, as Geoff Emerick said – it was recorded after White left the session. Andy White is absolutely not the drummer on the master recording. If anything he was on the slow version that was erased. And now this guy is trying to take credit 50 years later because he has nothing else going on in is life at 80 year old, or has dementia and forgot that he played on an early take of the song.

  4. A. DeCesare

    Thanks, Jemini! I,ve been waiting for someone else to say this. The Beatles themselves, while listening to the tapes for Anthology 1, heard “Please Please Me” and said, “that’s not Ringo”. Andy White’s drumming on the outtake is exactly the same as the single.
    George Martin obviously liked White’s drumming on PPM better, but didn’t make his decision public. Perhaps he wanted to protect Ringo’s ego. How would it look if the Beatles’ first two singles featured another drummer?!
    This is why we hear John messing up the lyrics. On a remake, they’d have corrected that. Whatever they did on November 26 wasn’t used. It’s also why that recording session has disappeared.

    1. SergioQ

      As for the whole was it, wasn’t it Ringo debate. At least YouTube the live version of the song. Ringo “totally owns” that song over the other 3. Doesn’t matter who’s on the studio version once you see Ringo playing it live.

  5. Joe

    I’m reading mark lewisohns book in front of me right now while listening to every Beatles recording session bootlegs I have on my studio dr dre beats headphones! Andy White’s Abbey Road payment card does NOT have November 26th as a working paid date! However, he dies obviously have September 11th! Which leads me to believe White was on the first few takes of Please Please Me, which we now know he was on in the anthology version of the song because it’s clearly not Ringos drumming and the book itself days that Ringo did not drum AT ALL THAT DAY! It also says TAKES UNKNOWN! We can assume that Please Please Me was obviously already auditioned for George Martin and was the “dreary Roy Orbison” version. However the sound had ALREADY BEEN SPED UP FOR THIS September 11 date because Andy Whites version is FAST not DREARY! and the drumming on this anthology take and the finished single sound strikingly similar! I guarantee that Ringo gave it a shot at the future session on November 26th, BUT George Martin preferred the Andy White version from September 11! Much like he did with White’s version of Love Me Do, since he didn’t have much confidence in Ringo yet, having just only met him and heard a few takes of his! I guess what we should be doing is listening to LIVE RECORDINGS of this song where Ringo plays and compare it to the actual song ! And dont forget that the mono and stereo versions of this song are different too! I would put money on it that the stereo version with John’s word flub and half laugh on the first “Come on!” is the Andy White version and the mono version on the album is the Ringo version from November 26th! The drumming on the stereo word flub version just sounds too much like the abthology Andy White version!

    1. John King

      Regarding the two dates you mentioned. There’s a video on youtube with an Andy White interview where he claims he played drums on a version of Please Please Me the same day they recorded Love Me Do & P.S. I Love You. He doesn’t mention any other recording dates but the one.

  6. gruff

    Does anyone know what the deal is with the weird, seemingly off-time drummming that starts at 1:45, quietly in the right channel of the LP version? I can’t find an explanation of it anywhere.

    1. Abel Baker

      From what I can tell from the information in “Tune In: The Beatles Vol. 1″and listening to the tracks themselves, I believe it’s because the instruments and vocals were recorded simultaneously live onto separate tracks and for some reason edited together from different takes. What sounds like out of time drumming is the bleed of the drums from a different take into the vocal microphones. That means there are two different takes playing on top of each other at that edit point and, without having played to a metronome, they’re slightly out of time with each other. It’s rather jarring and I don’t really understand the reason why the same take from the mono mix wasn’t used for the stereo mix.

    2. Utamia

      For the stereo, they lost most of their tapes, or they were destroyed. So they made due with different takes, and they lost the harmonica take. Since the mono mix had the harmonica, they just faded it in during those parts on the stereo version. Though, they just layed it out over the right channel of the stereo, the tempos of the takes were different and they didnt cut up the mono tape to re-align it.
      The drums were a different take so they sound different but they had faded in the harmonica at that time and not faded it out until after the drums, so your hearing on the left channel, the drum mic instruments channel, and on the right, the reverb from the please please me raw twin track AND the mono mix, since they were too lazy and didn’t fade out the vocal track before fading in the mono mix. At the end of the song, the mono mix was still laying over the stereo mix when they faded in the harmonica, so there was a slight delay, so your hearing on the right, reverb from the instruments on the left channel, vocals from the stereo take, the mono instruments and the mono vocals with a harmonica. to add to this confusion, a really similar sounding lead guitar to the harmonica on the left channel, along with louder vocal reverb on the left channel.

  7. SergioQ

    Regarding the slow Roy Orbison version that was never saved: Not sure if outside links are allowed here, and this is not a video of me. But I always wondered what it would have sounded like. So I found this guy on YouTube. Sounds just as Lennon describes it when writing it.

  8. Jim O'Beirne Jr

    Can anyone explain the George Martin/Dick James (producers) problem? Martin was at the helm (?) in Jan’63 when ‘Please, Please Me’ was cut on the VJ label, at least I think so, but, Dick James took over (?) at some point—I see several VJ 45’s with the Dick James name, but I’m convinced that I need to be looking for the VJ label with George Martin on that label…isn’t that correct??

    1. Peter Mizen

      Dick james was the music publisher of Lennon/McCartney songs . Northern Songs was a spin off of Dick James Music . He was never a producer.

  9. carlos

    I´ve read so much about the Andy White/George Martin/Ringo´s affair that I`m really confused. Is there any difference between the UK ´s single and album versions of “Please please me”? I´ve never owned a copy of the single so please somebody clear it up to me.

  10. Johan cavalli

    Lennon started composing Please Please Me in a slow tempo. If you play it slowly it changes from being a pop song to a kind of anthem song! The beginning with falling notes resembles Mendelssohn´s Wedding March. I don´t think it resembles Roy Orbison´songs at all. When Lennon was a little boy, he loved going to church and listen to the music in the divine services. Afterwards he used to improvise anthems.
    In parts of All You Need Is Love, Lennon has even more of anthem feelings.

  11. Johan cavalli

    The song is music history. It was The Beatles first number one in Britain February 1963. It was composed by Lennon 1961. It was something new. Love Me Do wasn´t a big success at all, sounded like the pop music before The Beatles, or worse.
    Music writers don´t, or didn´t, write so much about Lennon´s musical genius for many many years, because McCartney had composed Yesterday… But: When Lennon was a little boy he loved going to church and listen to the music in the divine services. Afterwards he used to improvise anthem melodies! In later years I have realized that Lennon could have been unconsciously inspired by the melody West minster Quarters the chime is playing in churches. The first four notes are the same as those in the chime.
    Albert Goldman was the first one who made musical analysis of Beatles or Lennon´s songs. He thinks the beginning of Please Please Me is “like sailors shouting back and forth as they haul up a sheet of canvas, the song is an irresistible shout of “ Bon voyage”.
    Then the call and response! And the middle part is typical Lennon: with the octave run!: “…it´s so hard to reason with YOU…”. The song is fantastical. It is not typical pop music, it´s a kind of expressionism, which is typical for the early Beatles music. It has nothing to do with Roy Orbison. McCartney willingly speaks, or spoke, about plagiarism. I have always got the feeling that McCartney and George Martin want to reduce the song´s importance, because Lennon, and not McCartney was the dominant composer in those years, before Yesterday — and that embarrasses the competitive McCartney tremendously — and George Martin wasn´t so influential before Sgt Pepper.
    Music writers usually don´t know that Please Please Me is a Lennon composition, but they all know that McCartney did Yesterday! George Martin knew it is a Lennon song completely, but by some reason he always said that John and Paul wrote it “together”. That irritated Lennon. See the book “Lennon letters”.

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